Wednesday, July 20, 2016

From Away -Africa

Big Cats

Of course everyone loves the big cats. So many stories have been written about cats with character- Androcles and the Lion, all those fables, Jungle Book... I was so amazed at how healthy the lions and cats of Tanzania were. Do remember that there are no fences here. These animals roam, kill, eat and carry on as they have always done. The biggest threat of course to the lions is man. There is an organization called Lion Aid that is working with governments to stop the slaughter of these unique animals.
Tanzania has 42,000 square kilometers of 14 National Parks. You pay a fair amount entrance fee to get into the parks, each day. There is a curfew on when you have to leave. I suspect that these cat fellows do plenty in those after hours when no one is watching.
Male lions can reach 550 lbs. From Wikipedia- In the wild, males seldom live longer than 10-14 years, as injuries sustained from continual fighting with rival males greatly reduce their longevity. They typically inhabit savanna and grassland. Lions are unusually social compared to other cats. A pride of lions consists of related females and offspring and a small number of adult males. Groups of females typically hunt together, preying on mostly large hoofed mammals. Lions are apex and keystone predators although they are also expert scavengers obtaining over 50% of their food as opportunity allows. 
By and large the lions sleep in the day although they don't have to. We saw no killing but it is clear from these characters, they are getting their meals. We were delighted to have several sightings of cheetahs and a wonderful leopard, as you will see. The circle continues...

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Happy Hippos

Hippopotami have always had a jolly fictional character, Hippo Hamburgers in San Francisco had a winsome logo in the 1960's. Funny songs have been written about them. They are well loved for many reasons, not the least of which is their round shape and winning "smile". In reality the hippopotamus is regarded as one of Africa's most dangerous animals. They can kill crocodiles and lions and people. It is not good to get on the wrong side of a hippo. They are very large, up to over 2000 pounds for the female to 7000 pounds for the male
All that being said, They are rather marvelous to watch, even though their rudeness knows no bounds. They fart, excrete, and fornicate at will, which seems to be often. They like to hang in groups and they are herbivores. They will wander for several miles at night to eat grasses if they need to outside the water but the water is the most comfortable place for them. I would think it assists in taking a load off, and gets rid of various bugs. Small oxpeckers like to clean them, as they do also with giraffes and buffalos.  The water also keeps them from getting dehydrated and prevents overheating.
A hippo pool, of which there are fabulous ones in the Serengeti can hold well over a hundred in water that has all manner of effluents. They can be found in swamps and rivers all over Africa. They are not popular poaching animals. To hear them is to laugh. They make wonderful woofling noises, deep laughter, snorts and snuffles. A good link to hear them is . They are very photogenic.
See what I mean-

Wonderful Warthogs

Pity the humble warthog. He is so ugly he is cute. Very shy, these animals hang around in  families and although fearsome looking when they are startled or if they think they may have a problem they run briskly away with their tales in the air. They are masters at disappearing in an instant! Understandably if you corner one it will fight, not what I would want to experience.
They love to wallow in the mud as some pictures show. They live in ground burrows.  When they are young, in lieu of tusks they have white hair that symbolizes tusks. Perhaps it is their protection for predators. I imagine these stocky pigs would be good eating!
Here are the sounds they make (
One warthog that we saw at the Ngorongoro Crater which I may have posted before was white. I call him my White Wizard as he is clearly older and unique among all those that we saw. He was solo, perhaps because he was unusual or who knows.


Zebras are called "tourist TV" as tourists can't seem to get enough photos of their behinds. Understandable, Have you ever seen a nicer, more pattable behind? They like to socialize with wildebeests, antelope and giraffe. Usually when you see a couple zebras and they are rarely alone, you can expect to see others around.
Especially specatcular was the migrating herd in the Serengeti. Thousands of wildebeests were scattered with zebras. I will never see such a sight again I imagine.
Zebras do make honking sounds ( that make you think they are in trouble most of the time. Sometimes it is an alert. It's often startling. THey often stand next to each other, resting their heads on each others' backs. This allows a comfortable and social way to keep a look out for predators.
Here is my tourist TV to you.


Of course I grew up with zoo giraffes and story giraffes but there is something so mesmerizing about seeing giraffes in their own habitat doing their "giraffe thing" that I think they are my favorite of all the wondrous things I saw in Tanzania. I keep looking through my pictures and am amazed at what I see all over again. I want to share the Giraffe Gallery with you. I love the way they seem to get along with everyone (mind you, not the predators) Their lazy acceptance and graceful sway is a delight.